Our classrooms are clearly laid out for children. The classrooms are prepared and equipped for the size and pace of preschool aged children and are designed to put them at ease by giving them freedom in an environment carefully prepared with attractive materials arranged on low shelves that can be reached by any child. The tables and chairs are moveable so as to allow a variety of activities and the children work on small rugs on the floor where they are naturally comfortable. In our classrooms, there is no front of the room and no teacher's desk as a focal point of attention because the stimulation for learning comes from the total environment.
In our environment, our teachers pay very close attention to each individual child. They are, first of all, very keen observers of the individual interests and needs of each child, and their daily work proceeds from their observations rather than from a lesson prepared for the entire group. Each interaction is directed to bringing the individual child to the curricular expectations rather than grouping all of the children together and expecting them to learn as a single unit. Teachers demonstrate the correct use of materials as they are individually chosen by the children. They carefully watch the progress of each child with an eye toward individual readiness and they keep a record of his work with the materials; sometimes they divert a child who chooses material which is beyond his ability and at other times encourage a child who is hesitant. Moreover, when a child makes a mistake, they allow her to discover that error through further manipulation of the self-correcting material. This procedure follows the basic principle that a child learns through experience.
There is always a busy hum of activity in our classrooms because the use of our materials involves many motions such as walking, carrying, pouring, speaking and, particularly, the constant use of the hands. All of this activity, however, is governed by respect for the work of others, respect for the materials and respect for the teacher. Especially at this age, we do not equate discipline with silence and immobility. Our approach to the formation of each child implies that self-discipline should be acquired through absorption into meaningful work. When children become deeply interested in classroom activity their behavior inevitably matures.
The use of individual materials permits a varied pace that accommodates many levels of ability in the classroom. A younger or slower child may work for many weeks on the same piece of equipment without slowing down the other members of the class or feeling inadequate due to the achievement of others. Advanced children in the same room can move from one piece of equipment to another very quickly, thus avoiding the boredom of waiting for other members of the class to catch up. The children with a high level of ability are constantly challenged by the wide variety of materials and their many uses.